Indigenous peoples in Tanzania

Tanzania is estimated to have a total of 125-130 ethnic groups, falling mainly into the four categories of Bantu, Cushite, Nilo-Hamite and San.

Pastoralists and hunter-gatherers

While there may be more ethnic groups that identify themselves as indigenous peoples, four groups have been organising themselves and their struggles around the concept and movement of indigenous peoples. 

The four groups self-identitying as indigenous peoples in Tanzania include the hunter-gatherer:

  • Akie
  • Hadzabe

And the pastoralist:

  • Barabaig
  • Maasai

Although accurate figures are hard to arrive at since ethnic groups are not included in the population census, population estimates put: 

  • the Maasai in Tanzania at 430,000
  • the Barabaig (which belong to the Datoga group) at 87,978
  • the Hadzabeat 1,000
  • the Akie (Ndorobo) at 5,268

While the livelihoods of these groups are diverse, they all share a strong attachment to the land, distinct identities, vulnerability and marginalisation.

They also experience similar problems in relation to tenure insecurity, poverty and inadequate political representation.

No Specific National Policy on Indigenous Peoples

Tanzania voted in favour of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in 2007 but does not recognize the existence of any indigenous peoples in the country and there is no specific national policy or legislation on indigenous peoples per se.

On the contrary, a number of policies, strategies and programmes that do not reflect the interests of the indigenous peoples in terms of access to land and natural resources, basic social services and justice are continuously being developed, resulting in a deteriorating and increasingly hostile political environment for both pastoralists and hunter-gatherers.

Yearly Update

Download the 2016 yearbook article on indigenous peoples in Tanzania to learn about major developments and events during 2015.